The Four Homes of Mercy, is an institution founded and run by Palestinians for individuals with severe intellectual and physical disabilities. Established in 1948 as a home for orphans, the Four Homes has since grown into Palestine’s only 24/7 rehabilitation home.
Nestled at the end of a dusty road in the town of Bethany, my son and I had come to write & photograph about a care home in severe debt that hadn’t been able to pay its staff for the last three months. Surviving two wars, two intifadas and the ongoing occupation to become one of the few safe havens for Palestinians with disabilities.
Many of the staff still travel the one and a half hour journey everyday through Israeli checkpoints to come to work. Without the separation wall it would be a 30 minute commute. The home is a sanctuary for some of the most severely disabled and impoverished. Pushed in from both sides, even ‘For the Palestinian community, when they talk about disabilities, they think that it is a hopeless case. They think that it is better to invest in orphans who will grow up to work in and benefit the community.’ However the majority of this frustration has to do with navigating the faceless bureaucracy of the Israeli permit system, whereby all Palestinians must apply to Israel for permits to travel between the various ‘Areas’ of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Israelis living in illegal settlements throughout the West Bank require no such permits.
‘All of our residents are Palestinians with Palestinian I.Ds,’ Salem explains, ‘Every year we take them camping in Tiberius, Tabgha. To do so we need to apply to Israel for special permission for our residents—our intellectually and severely disabled residents— for a special permission for each of them. And some of them are rejected for security reasons!”